Tag Archives: cultivators

urban-gro Launches Cannabis Industry’s First Line Of IoT Solutions

By Aaron G. Biros
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Last week at the MJBizCon, a major cannabis industry event held annually in Las Vegas, urban-gro launched the first technology line for cannabis growers utilizing Internet-of-Things (IoT). urban-gro, a cultivation technology company for commercial-scale growers, announced the launch of announced Soleil® Technologies, an integrated portfolio of hardware, software, and services that uses IoT.

“The solution suite includes per-plant sensing, environmental monitoring, machine diagnostics, fertigation management, lighting controls, inventory management, and seed-to-sale tracking,” reads the press release. IoT is essentially a network of devices embedded with sensors and software that allow the devices to connect and exchange data. IoT devices are used extensively in the food industry, including for integrated pest management, restaurant food safety and management and tracking product conditions such as temperature and humidity throughout the supply chain, among other uses.

Soleil consists of three primary lines:

  • Soleil 360 is the cloud-based software-as-a-service (SASS) platform that integrates all Soleil solutions.
  • Soleil Sense is the brand for all of urban-gro’s low-power wireless sensors that deliver data with the scale, precision and resolution needed for analytics and machine learning.
  • Soleil Controls is urban-gro’s product set for climate and irrigation controls, lighting systems, and other focused controls.

The core, low-power sensor that makes this unique was licensed from Edyza, a wireless innovator that specializes in low-power wireless grids that scale. urban-gro then developed on top of that sensor, including its cloud-based management, analytics, what the sensors detect and cover, etc., to make it ideal for cannabis growers.

According to Brad Nattrass, urban-gro’s chief executive officer, finding an IoT solution that can easily scale was a key goal for their business. “When evaluating the most advanced market-ready sensor technology available, it was crucial that we deliver a solution that can easily scale to thousands of sensors in order to satisfy the needs of large-scale commercial cultivators,” says Nattrass. “The introduction of Soleil demonstrates urban-gro’s commitment to going beyond simply supplying equipment, to truly serving our clients as an ongoing technological innovator and advisor, enabling cultivators to leverage today’s more advanced technologies to rise above the competition.”

“Cultivators will be able to monitor substrate moisture and EC (electrical conductivity) levels on a per plant basis, as well as track key environmental metrics like temperature, humidity, air movement, and probability of infestation,” reads the press release. “With multiple device options, cultivators can choose between several deployment options.” With the data hosted on the cloud, users can access it through web browsers, Android and iOS devices.

According to Jay Nichols, a representative of urban-gro, they have hired (and is hiring) code developers, product developers, etc. in order to expand this unit. Plant sensors are just one piece of the system, with the goal to automate the entire cultivation process, including controlling lights, pest management, irrigation and fertigation. They say it will be available in late Q1/early Q2.

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Documentation & Compliance: A Q&A with Michael Shea, ConformanceWare

By Aaron G. Biros
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Cannabis safety throughout the supply chain requires active documentation tools for business owners to keep up with standards and regulations on the local and state level. Michael Shea, founder and president of AccessQMS and chief executive officer of Upshot’s ConformanceWare, provides consulting support across multiple industries with independent referral services to compliance professionals. With quality, safety and efficiency at top of mind, ConformanceWare’s design team developed the Medical Cannabis Series (MC Series™) to help cannabis business owners make the task of compliance easier. The documentation tools in the program are individually tailored to address needs in cultivation, processing, analyzing and dispensing.MC series

The MC Series-Analyze Edition is currently in use at Canalysis Laboratories and NV Cann Labs, both operating in Nevada. According to Tara Lynn, chief executive officer at NV Cann Labs, the product helps them meet all of their documentation needs. “I appreciate all of the development using the MC Series- Analyze Edition and look forward to developing even more of a relationship through the years to come,” says Lynn. We sit down with Michael Shea to learn more about his product and how cannabis business owners can stay on top of regulatory compliance.

CannabisIndustryJournal: How will the MC Series help cannabis laboratories, cultivators, processors and dispensaries navigate regulatory compliance?

Michael Shea: To open a sustainable business involving cannabis goes beyond submitting applications, paying fees and focusing on profit alone. As laws adjust and tighter controls are put in place, more and more business owners are realizing what preserves and sustains their business is, in fact, compliance.

True sustainability is driven by forward thinking that values documenting and following best practices to ensure quality, safety and efficiency. Ambiguity concerning where to turn or how to correctly produce this documentation not only poses a difficult dilemma, it can put one’s investment at risk as well.mcserieslaptop

Finding a remedy for the situation begins with an expansion of perspective. Businesses will benefit most by actively working toward compliance from the onset. This approach eliminates having to face non-compliance and the enforcement that goes along with it.

MC Series™ is designed for this purpose and will greatly help businesses precisely document how their method of operation demonstrates full compliance with applicable laws and standards. Each MC Series™ edition is developed using Microsoft Word and Excel, which is then customized to mirror each organization’s processes, procedures and instructions.

Being user friendly, we have built in numerous hyperlinks for navigating and managing files and documents so that the documentation behaves like a website. This enables each user to access, edit, save and retrieve information instantly.

CIJ: How does your product utilize CMC’s, FDA, ISO, FOCUS, AHPA and EPA standards to help business owners?  

Michael: Businesses handling cannabis are subject to strict regulations and are expected to show full compliance with regulatory protocols. Setting up your business correctly means playing by the rules and operating with the proper documentation and structural foundation.mcserieslaptop2

By applying established best practices from the start, business owners will be able to minimize risk for investors, tighten efficiencies and quickly adapt to regulatory changes with minor adjustments. This serves two primary functions: Business owners will now have the protection they need and the means to promote their brand as a world-class operation.

Because laws surrounding cannabis are in such a state of flux and revision, what is most valuable to know is what technical documents lawmakers select for the purpose of writing regulations. Putting this knowledge to work, the MC series uses a variety of guidance documents designated by regulatory and standards bodies for best establishing compliance.

Developed with regulations in mind, each series edition accurately defines the scope of applicability required for your business model. Whether you’re a grower, processor, cannabis testing service or dispensary the MC series has a solution. It significantly helps business owners to achieve compliance by providing the required documentation with an operations framework.

MC series merges regulatory best practices with internationally accepted standards to deliver a complete solution with a very quick turnaround time. Designed to ensure public safety and protect human health, the MC series provides a much-needed tool that bridges the gap between compliance and profitability.

CIJ: How might you be ahead of the curve in looking toward a rescheduling or a schedule 2 cannabis framework?

Michael: Being ahead of the curve simply translates to knowing the regulatory landscape and what’s involved moving forward. When the goal is to legalize cannabis for its great many uses and benefits, public health and safety must come first. Now is the time for business owners to get serious and effectively address the process of legitimizing it.

As with anything available for consumption, standardization is the method and regulators have a long established process for putting controls in place to ensure the health and safety of consumers. We have a lot of experience in this area, and our MC Series™ is an exceptionally useful tool for people who don’t. It is our way of contributing to assisting and accelerating the process.

Essentially, we are saying to business owners, operate your business as if cannabis is already legal. Managing your operations in compliance to existing regulatory best practices will speak volumes to lawmakers. You will be effectively demonstrating to Federal and State governments that you understand the importance of regulations to ensure public health and safety and are making compliance top priority.

This will make your business fluid in relation to regulatory changes and prepare you for Schedule II and beyond.

CIJ: Why should business owners be proactive in navigating regulatory compliance with a documentation management system?

Michael: With so many regulations targeting the cannabis industry, it is hard to keep track of and adjust accordingly. Many business owners are getting excited about being involved and making a difference. Amidst all this enthusiasm, the importance of best practices is often times overlooked and prioritized for when business is good and finances improve.

At this point, business owners can no longer afford to position best practices for future use.

For businesses handling cannabis, taking a future stance will always increase risk.. This leaves you legally exposed to unforeseen costs and complications. More importantly, it will exponentially increase the potential for watching your investment, hard work and business be out paced by the competition, or even worse, closed down permanently.mcseriesipad

Alternatively, being proactive will yield different results. Great benefits will come by adopting and following best practices to operate your business. In doing so, you now have an effective method to ensure quality, health and safety, environmental stewardship and sustainability. As a rapidly growing industry, these areas of discipline are absolutely critical for cannabis to reach its full potential and be fully accepted.

In many industries, legitimate and successful companies see best practices as simply part of doing business. Many see it as a tool that provides a useful roadmap for continually improving their operations and strengthening their position in the market.

When the legal obligations have been taken care of, success becomes a matter of setting realistic goals, planning well and delivering with impeccable timing. Operational performance can now be measured and improved for unhindered growth. Everyone involved or tied to your business is now on the same page and in areas of supervision, micromanagement is replaced with a documented system. Documentation should clearly define everyone’s roles and responsibilities, so that when errors occur, there are corrective action procedures available to fix them.


Editor’s note: For more information you may reach out directly to Michael Shea at 313-303-6763 or info@conformanceware.com

An Introduction to Cannabis Genetics, Part II

By Dr. CJ Schwartz
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Plants and animals have roughly 25,000 to 30,000 genes. The genes provide the information needed to make a protein, and proteins are the building blocks for all biological organisms. An ideal analogy is a blueprint (DNA) for an alternator (the protein) in a car (the plant). Proteins are the ‘parts’ for living things. Some proteins will work better than others, leading to visible differences that we call phenotypes.

geneticspaintedchromMany traits, and the genes controlling them, are of interest to the cannabis industry. For hemp seed oil, quality, quantity and content can be manipulated through breeding natural genetic variants. Hemp fibers are already some of the best in nature, due to their length and strength. Finding the genes and proteins responsible for elongating the fibers can allow for the breeding of hemp for even longer fibers. In cannabis, the two most popular genes are THCA and CBDA synthases. There are currently over 100 sequences of the THCAS/CBDAS genes, and many natural DNA variations are known. We can make a family tree using just the THCAS, gene data and identify ‘branches’ that result in high, low or intermediate THCA levels. Generally most of the DNA changes have little to no effect on the gene, but some of the changes can have profound effects.

In fact, CBDAS and THCAS are related, in other words, they have a common ancestor. At some point the gene went through changes that resulted in the protein producing CDBA, or THCA or both. This is further supported by the fact that certain CBDAS can produce some THCA, and vice-versa. Studies into the THCAS and CBDAS family are ongoing and extensive, with terpene synthase genes following close behind.

Identifying gene (genetic) variants and characterizing their biological function allows us to combine certain genes in specific combinations to maximize yield, but determining which genes are important (gene discovery) is the first step to utilizing marker-assisted breeding.

Gene Discovery & Manipulation

The term genetics is often misused in the cannabis industry. Genetics is actually “the study of heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics.” When people say they have good genetics, what they really mean is that they have good strains, presumably with good gene variants. When people begin to cross or stabilize strains, they are performing genetic manipulation.Slide1

A geneticist will observe or measure two strains of interest, for example a plant branching and myrcene production. The high-myrcene plant is tall and skinny with no branching, reducing the yield. Crossing the two strains will produce F1 hybrid seeds. In some cases, F1 hybrids create unique desirable phenotypes (synergy) and the breeder’s work is completed. More often, traits act additively, thus we would expect the F1 to be of medium branching and medium myrcene production, a value between that of the values recorded for the parents (additive). Crossing F1 plants will produce an F2 population. An F2 population is comprised of the genes from both parents all mixed up. In this case we would expect the F2 progeny to have many different phenotypes. In our example, 25% of the plants would branch like parent A, and 25% of the F2 plants will have high myrcene like parent B. To get a plant with good branching and high myrcene, we predict that 6.25% (25% x 25%) of the F2 plants would have the correct combination.

The above-described scenario is how geneticists assign gene function, or generally called gene discovery. When the gene for height or branching is identified, it can now be tracked at the DNA level versus the phenotype level. In the above example, 93.5% of your F2 plants can be discarded, there is no need to grow them all to maturity and measure all of their phenotypes.Slide1

The most widely used method for gene discovery using natural genetic variation is by quantitative trait loci mapping (QTL). For these types of experiments, hundreds of plants are grown, phenotyped and genotyped and the data is statistically analyzed for correlations between genes (genotype) and traits (phenotype; figure). For example, all high-myrcene F2 plants will have one gene in common responsible for high myrcene, while all the other genes in those F2 plants will be randomly distributed, thus explaining the need for robust statistics. In this scenario, a gene conferring increased myrcene production has been discovered and can now be incorporated into an efficient marker-assisted breeding program to rapidly increase myrcene production in other desirable strains.

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Sustainability of Cultivation in 2016, Part I

By Aaron G. Biros
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A few weeks ago, it was that time of the year when people set new year’s resolutions hoping to accomplish a set of goals or somehow better themselves. More often than not, those expectations never get met and those resolutions remain unfulfilled, lofty ambitions.

The cultivation of cannabis is a production process that is notoriously inefficient and energy-intensive. Indoor growing requires a very large carbon footprint. In 2015, we saw the country’s cannabis market grow to roughly $2.7 billion. Looking forward to 2016, we can expect more growth with multiple states voting on recreational sales including California and Nevada, leading to more growers and a higher volume of cannabis production across the nation.

I am suggesting a resolution for cultivators to adopt: Grow your cannabis more sustainably. This might seem unattainable, but the key to a good resolution is a force of habit, setting small goals to improve your production process and make your operation more efficient, ultimately saving you money and reducing your carbon footprint. This series will delve into some of the tools cultivators can use to grow cannabis more sustainably.

Environmental, social and economic sustainability are the three pillars of sustainability to keep in mind. Many describe it in terms of people, planet and profit in reference to the Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business. Essentially, cultivators should adjust their standard operating procedures and business model to include their responsibility to be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

The challenge of growing cannabis efficiently is understandably daunting. A research study published in the journal, Energy Policy, suggests, “One average kilogram of final product [dried flower marijuana] is associated with 4600 kg of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere.” That translates to an enormous carbon footprint, the equivalent of roughly three million cars.

The use of pesticides is also a tangible social and environmental issue of sustainability because of the potentially harmful effects on the cultivation environment and the consumer. Just last week, Denver recalled almost 100,000 edibles due to concerns of dangerous pesticide residue. Growing pesticide-free marijuana is more sustainable across the board for obvious reasons; it is safe for the consumer, less harmful to the environment and more marketable as a clean and safe product.

There are a lot of tools in the cultivator’s arsenal they can use to work toward a more sustainable operation. Some of these include more energy efficient technology, like LED lighting and efficient HVAC systems. Some tools require more effort to implement like moving toward greenhouse growing, using post-consumer products, support fields, composting and others.

In this series, we will hear from growers offering advice on some of the steps you can take to grow your cannabis with sustainability at top of mind. Alex Cooley, vice president of Solstice, a cultivation and processing business in Washington, will share some insights on the sustainable technologies you can implement to improve efficiency in your grow operation. Stay tuned for Part II of Sustainability of Cultivation in 2016.